There is no hiding my excitement for this creature feature. Having endured the disappointing Endangered Species on Netflix recently my thirst for an old fashioned, Human vs. Beast was wet, but not quenched. This was a sub-genre that was becoming a relic of the past, when compared to the wealth of slam, blam superhero movies or ghostly horror movies it was rational to suggest that a man vs a lion is no longer a thrilling narrative.
Another influence as to why we see less of this type is film is that following the release of Jaws, shark hunting gain popularity. Additionally, before CGI, this type of film used real creatures that may have been mistreated during the filmmaking process, or nibbled on the cast and crew as in Roar.
On that note Beast is a simple and effective story, told with some decently impressive special effects. It’s safe to say we are almost at a point that a believable CGI lion has arrived as an industry standard. Certainly, you can see differences and it won’t convince everyone, but the effects work well enough not to be distracting.
The problems mount when we get to the final reel and Elba goes one on one with the lion to carry out his hastily put together plan. The logistics of the setup lead a lot to be desired given the distance travelled during the confrontation and the length of time Elba can endure his beating. This is the most jarring scene in the movie, whilst it’s entertaining it still drops the film’s fairly decent level of intelligence and enjoyment.
Cast includes Elba who is still one of the most underused leading men, we need to see him in blockbusters more frequently. He can command the screen easily and his stature adds volumes to the idea that he could go one on one with a lion. Elba has terrifically flexible too as there is some underlying drama involving the character’s wife and mother of his children. Elba sells this well without letting it bog down the action.
Sharlto Copley is solid support and his on screen relationship with Elba makes for some enjoyable scenes together. There was a moment that I hoped for a little more drama between the two as they discuss Elba’s wife, perhaps there was a subplot removed to allow for a leaner runtime.
Elba’s kids are along for the ride and this is where the emotional drama hides in the story as he, being an absent father during the kid’s period of loss, has to redeem himself. There isn’t much for a dramatic hook to catch you, but it helps put a little more meat on the bones.
Whilst this is a creature feature it would be remiss to not mention the protection of the species and the rape of the wildlife in South Africa. So, it comes as no surprise that there are poachers who get their comeuppance and some cast members fiercely stand against them. Unlike Endangered Species this is a lot more subtle and doesn’t become quite as preachy. It’s addressed, makes sense and gets back to the action.
The film looks beautiful, but I defy anyone to spend a few weeks filming in South Africa and not capture some of the most incredible imagery. One of the better decisions was that most of the film occurs in daylight. Whereas terror can be more effective during the night and CGI is easier when the light is dim, Beast has enough confidence in itself to allow the audience to see everything as it happens, save for one scene set at night.
I like Beast, I wouldn’t say I loved it as the climax really takes some liberties with believability. However, in a world where the lengths a human can endure are frequently exaggerated, more and more Beast pushes this another step in order to compete with superhero action films. Beast is mostly successful in what it sets out to do any proves to be a fun distraction with a bit of a silly climax.
Posters are fun, if very samey, pushing Elba and the family to capture a family night out with mild thrills. Alterate versions swap out the knife of a rifle, possibly due to contention over the depiction of knives.
Beast is coming to 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD on November 28th and is available to rent from most streaming platforms.